Sprint to Offer Rhapsody Radio Service

Sprint Nextel Corp. on Monday said it will sell access to RealNetworks Inc.'s Rhapsody radio service, allowing Sprint cellphone users to listen to several radio stations and podcasts.

Rhapsody Radio will cost $6.95 a month on top of what Sprint users pay for its Vision Multimedia Service, the wireless company's mobile Internet package. It features stations devoted to alternative, pop, country, R&B and hip hop.

It also allows users to watch music videos and listen to podcasts, which are archived radio programs and audio features that users can listen to on demand.

The new service comes at a time when wireless companies are leaning on mobile Internet offerings to offset the competitive market for mobile calls. Wireless companies are betting music is ideal programming for wireless data.

One of the more high profile music and wireless combinations is Cingular's deal with Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes, which allows Cingular users to download songs from iTunes to the new Motorola ROKR phones.

The Sprint-Rhapsody venture currently offers no download service. Instead, users listen to the stations or podcasts by "streaming" them from the wireless network.

"Downloading is interesting, but a lot of times people want convenience," said Kevin Nakao, general manager of RealNetworks' mobile business. "If you travel a lot, for example, you don't have time to upload your music to your player. With this service, the podcasts are there when you want them."

Another feature of the new service is called "Beats N Breaks," which are instrumental hip hop beats that allow users to create their own raps over the beats.

Ovum consultant Roger Entner called the service "a good first step. The important difference is that, unlike the ROKR, you do not need to sync your telephone to a PC to get your music. It's there on your phone and it's convenient."

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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